by Marie-Élisabeth Gourdeau
Last week, my daughter and I had to say goodbye to her first love: a wonderful mare named Butterfly. Léa was 5 years old when she announced she wanted to try horseback riding. Although I had ridden a couple of times before and enjoyed it, my first thought was that she was pretty small and a horse was pretty big, so I said we’d look into a summer day camp for the following summer. After searching for a safe place to ride, we ended up at a riding school that in time became like a second family to us. That is where we met, and loved dearly, the beautiful Butterfly, a great teacher.
Butterfly was already an old mare when Léa first hopped on her back. I thought she was huge, and looked at the smaller ponies thinking they would be safer… but really, no horse could be safer than this equine mother who always took care of her little riders. Léa and her developed a bond that she never got with any other school horse, even though she loves them all. She was patient with the conflicting signals she got from those little beginners, she loved to canter, but stayed calm when cantering with them, she paid attention to the rider’s balance before jumping. I once saw Butterfly use her shoulder to help Léa get back straight on the saddle after a difficult jump.
Unfortunately, I never got to ride her when I started riding myself a few years later: her old back could not take an adult’s weight anymore. Eventually, Léa had to stop riding her, because she could not jump as high as Léa was ready to jump.
Butterfly still welcomed us in her stall, recognizing the love in my daughter’s eyes, and the gratefulness in mine for every thing she had done for her. Léa now has a passion for horses thanks to that gentle, caring mare that was in her life. She used to go in her stall, when things were not going well at school, and would get a few nose cuddles in exchange for a few scratches, and then thing would feel better.
Last year, she was adopted by someone who took loving care of her in her old age, allowing her a nice, peaceful retirement. Last week I got a phone from the director of our school, to let me know that they had come to the difficult decision we had sadly come to expect. She took the time to phone me, so I could talk about it with Léa, knowing how much we loved Butterfly: she did not want us to learn about it on Facebook. This is the kind of thoughtful attentions that made that place like become a second family to us…
So over diner we remembered our beautiful time with Butterfly, Léa and I, and we let her go, knowing she was loved and well cared for to the end.
Thank you, Butterfly for all the trust, love and affection you gave us, and let us give you in return!